Imagine how awesome it would be if your dog or cat could come to work with you.
You’d de-stress by petting him, she’d entertain you by walking across your keyboard, and you’d have something to talk about with that awkward co-worker who comes to your cubicle and doesn’t quite know how to say hello.
Some people don’t have to imagine, because their employers already allow pets at work! And some people don’t like the idea of it at all.
In most cases, allowing pets to come to work really means dogs, we even have National Take Your Dog to Work Day every June 24, but there are companies that welcome birds, cats, and assorted other animal friends.
Like most variables in life, whether it’s a good or bad idea to allow pets in the workplace depends on the people and the environment.
Why Allowing Pets in the Workplace Is a Good Idea
It improves morale.
Businesses that allow furry or feathered friends to come to work with employees tend to have creative, open working environments. It helps when the corporate culture places an emphasis on its employees’ experiences at work.
Innovative employers like Google and Zynga (where “every day is bring your dog to work day), and pet-focused companies like Purina welcome employees to bring their pets to work with them in order to improve work-life balance, stress reduction, and employee productivity.
After all, as Purina’s careers page says, “The best associates are healthy and happy, and lead full lives.”
It attracts younger talent.
The desire to bring pets to work is a growing trend among millennial employees. If they are allowed to bring their dogs to work, for example, they save on doggy daycare fees, they are more likely to be focused, and more willing to stay late since they’re not rushing home to let their pets out.
It helps employees bond, which motivates good work.
Katie Papa, supervising producer at Pie Town Productions in Los Angeles, says “having dogs in the office contributes to the ‘family’ feel that this company has, and it also raises the cuteness quotient considerably.”
Pie Town is the company that produces the long-running House Hunters television series on HGTV, and many other successful series.
Having animals around has shown to facilitate employees interacting with one another where they wouldn't normally venture outside their comfort zones. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a co-worker if there is a pet around to break the ice.
Smaller companies, especially ones whose function revolves around pets and animals, are more likely to have looser guidelines about appropriate behavior for its employees who bring pets to work.
Pie Town wisely incorporated more formal guidelines once the practice became so popular. “Pie Town Productions has always had a generous bring-your-dog-to-work policy,” says Papa.
“The unwritten rules have always been that your dog needs to be housebroken, friendly, and relatively quiet. As the company has grown, the policy has become slightly stricter: you have to sign up to bring your dog, and there is a maximum of three dogs allowed on any given day. This prevents an onslaught of dogs and lessens the risk of any unintentional doggie distractions.”
When Pets in the Workplace Are a Bad Idea
When one or more co-workers have allergies or a fear of animals.
The presence of an animal could understandably cause a true threat to someone’s well-being and sense of safety.
Allergies can be considered official disabilities that should be respected in the workplace. At Google, people with animal allergies have the last word on whether it’s cool for their office-mates bring their pets into the environment.
When the landlord doesn’t allow it.
Some businesses might actually embrace and really desire to have friendly, fun animals around to brighten everyone’s day, but the building they’re in simply restricts their presence. Hands are tied.
When the workplace is sterile, or produces or serves food.
You wouldn’t want a shedding dog in a laboratory or cafe, where sterile supplies, meals, or manufactured products are made or packaged.
If the animals are distracting or otherwise curb productivity.
Heather Konkoli worked at an office where pets were welcome, but only because everyone respected that not all animals are suitable for the workplace.
“Yes some employees had dogs that they knew would not react well in that environment, so those pups had to stay home," she recalls. "It worked out well with employees being smart about it to not ruin it for everyone.”
Plus, even the most docile animals require care and supervision, and breaks for relieving themselves. When too much time is taken up by animal breaks, depending on the work, their presence might be counterproductive.
When the office or workplace isn’t good for the pets.
Noisy or hazardous work environments, like construction sites, machining facilities, or mining operations, can be very loud and disturbing to pets, not to mention dangerous for animals to be wandering loose and potentially getting injured.
If you’re worried about legal liability.
You can be held responsible for personal injury or property damage done by employees’ pets, or even the pets of customers who bring them into your place of business. And let’s face it, even the most docile animals can attack people or other pets, or destroy property.
Job Hunting? You Can Choose
If you’re a pet-lover and wish you could take your pooch to the office, job search tools now allow you to search for companies that welcome pets at work.
And it’s worth looking into a larger company’s benefits or code of conduct web page before you apply to see if they embrace the pets-at-work perk.
These tools work if you're more comfortable at a no-pet workplace, too.